The hardest part isn’t letting go. It’s the wanting to hold on.
Sweeney Todd is on Netflix. From the organ introduction through the noteable cast, Johnny Depp and the late Alan Rickman, to the very end , fantastic. While I like Criminal Minds and Dexter because they catch the bad guys, I think Sweeney Todd is magnificently dark and awful. I love hearing an actor who can sing. I’ve read the music critics reviews of Johnny and Alan and I don’t care. They’re brilliant. Since some may not have seen it, I’ll try not to plot spoil. It’s enough to say that Sweeney Todd is a story of death and love and revenge and remorse and lots of ick factor.
It’s The Princess Bride, with true love and everything, but there’s no miracle.
In an interview with my favorite singing actor, Mandy Patinkin talks with a sage’s wisdom about his current feelings about revenge, but this is my favorite scene from The Princess Bride:
I heard another interiew in which Patinkin says that when his character finally got his revenge, in his mind he was killing the cancer that killed his own father.
I want revenge, too.
I want revenge against bipolar, against depression, against suicide. In the movie we aren’t told what happens to Patinkin’s character after his revenge. For that, read the book, but be prepared for anything. I won’t plot spoil any more on the book A Princess Bride. But I’ll recommend that you buy it. Oh look, Amazon and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: A free endorsement!
It’s true that revenge can go wrong. Dexter spent his whole life getting revenge against killers who got away, because his mother was killed and the killer got away. If you don’t know how that turned out, there’s another free endorsement- Dexter, from beginning to end, is on Netflix too. And his revenge didn’t always turn out the way he wanted. I’m sure no one who takes revenge really cares about the collateral damage they may do on the journey of vengeance. But I’d guess there would always be collateral damage, because we don’t get what we really want. We can sometimes get close. But a lot of the time we just lose after we lose and that doesn’t seem right. It’s not a happy ending, nor even the happiest possible ending.
Believe it or not, God says He is in the revenge business.
Here’s Romans 12:19, quoting Deuteronomy 32:35:
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
I suspect, sadly, that the verses are truth and that’s why our human efforts at revenge never turn out the way we want except in certain movies. What we want is, people and things that hurt us get their comeuppance, their karma. What we want is the satisfaction of knowing that those who hurt us and ours have gotten what’s coming to them and won’t ever be able to hurt anyone else, and we ultimately learn to live on and accept our personal losses. What we get doesn’t ever seem that good.
When I started writing I said this: The hardest part isn’t letting go. It’s the wanting to hold on. We don’t really have a choice about loss. We have to realize that losing is inevitable, and we have to learn how to let go in the right way. I don’t want to let go. I want to hold on. I break things, things fall apart, (hey, another free endorsement, this time for Heinemann!) and I grieve a little if they were special, unique, expensive, or held memories. A coffee cup from a place I won’t be able to go back to. A T-shirt that wears out and gets holes. A shirt that gets a coffee stain, a pair of pants with an oil stain, an accidental bleach spot. The day the car needs a few hundred dollars of mechanic time and spends the money I’m trying to save for fixing my teeth. My two teeth that need either pulling or implanting or preferably both.
We’re going to lose. Things fall apart. And inevitably, we’ll suffer the worst kind of loss- when a dear friend or a family member dies. The hardest part isn’t letting go. It’s that I wanted to hold on longer than was possible. It’s that I still wanted more of our friendship.
In the context of our recent loss, it seems trivial to mention that my dad’s dog died. But she was a part of his life, a part of his family, and it’s thrown him into a pretty long-term depression, as if my cyclothymia wasn’t hereditary. How the fuck did he hide it from me, and why the fuck didn’t he talk to me about what I might expect?
My kids have some times when they are depressed already, and I have that talk with them when I feel it’s relevant. I’ve already advised my son and daughter that they may have inherited my cyclothymia or something close to it, and that the wave of sadness will pass, and they have to learn how to push through until it does. I’ve advised that any voices in their heads, or bullies at school, or crises in life that lead to negative self-talk, should not be heeded, especially when they call for self harm or self destruction. I asked them to please come to me so we can talk it through, pray it through, and fight it together.
But dad should have fucking told me too. He’s doing little, minor, self destructive things, through his medical issues, deliberately mistreating his body but not per se suicidally. It sucks to watch and not be able to intervene. He makes his own choices and mum their kids have to live with it. And maybe, raised in his generation, he was not aware of what he was feeling and coped in the best way he could, and kept it to himself fearing it would be more destructive to talk about it. Back then the medical community didn’t really know how to treat bipolar. They still don’t, but at least it’s recognized now along with autism spectrum, learning disabilities, etc.
I wish vengeance were mine to repay. Sometimes. But in more lucid moments, I see clearly through the rage I feel about life and loss, that it can’t be my job. I can’t handle it, and there would be extra consequences if I tried to get revenge on anything or anybody who wronged me. But I still grieve for things, for my hurting friends, for my friends who have left me behind. In grade school one of my friends died and no one told me. I found a news clipping, too late to go to the funeral. I didn’t even get to grieve normally, or say goodbye.
To death, to bipolar, to cyclothymia, to depression, even to rage, to whatever kind of hell engineers these events, to God if He really does handle vengeance, about loss of friends, recent and past, about my dad’s slow loss of quality of life, about my own shit-happens grieving, never-normal emotions that should and could be a lot more pleasant, about my kids’ possible future if they ride the mood waves, about all that we have lost, and about all that we will lose inevitably, I want to stab that fucking destruction in the heart and tell it,
“I want [it all] back, you son of a bitch.”